Series 5 of The Brokenwood Mysteries started yesterday in the US and Canada, and its new episodes are fab.
The Brokenwood Mysteries is TV comfort food — a show that consistently delivers cracking good whodunits, allows you to savor the complexities of the stories (without them doing your head in), and, more often than not, leaves you with a smile as the end credits roll.
Part and parcel of the show’s appeal are the very likable lead characters: the country music-loving Detective Senior Sergeant Mike Shepherd (Neill Rea, Go Girls), his methodical partner Detective Kristin Sims (Fern Sutherland, The Almighty Johnsons), and their put-upon sidekick Detective Constable Sam Breen (Nic Sampson, Step Dave).
It is on a rare day off for all three of them that a man dies in their midst in “Scared to Death,” the new season’s first episode. Mike, Kristin, and Sam are at the A&P show, a family-friendly carnival, when the rides owner seemingly dies of fright on his Ghost Train ride. Medical examiner Dr. Gina Kadinsky (Cristina Serban Ionda, Filthy Rich) confirms the victim died of a massive heart attack, but she also reveals its cause was neither natural nor other-worldly. So the detectives must figure out if the victim was done in by one of his two brothers, his ex-wife, or another carnival employee.
“Bride Not to Be” opens with the discovery of a young woman, dressed in a wedding gown and veil, floating down the Brokenwood River. The night before, the victim, a professional tennis player, had been celebrating (heavily) at her hen do (aka bachelorette party) at the Tidal View Lodge, while her fiancé and his best man were at the tennis club throwing back a few (or several) at his stag do. As the detective trio investigate the murder, they find various alibis don’t hold up and more than one person had a motive.
The third episode, “Tontine,” is reminiscent of the story in Agatha Christie’s best-selling novel, although the context is different. While Kristin is at the scene of a man’s death, in which he succumbed to a heart attack after a grueling bike ride up a mountain, Mike is trying to figure out a death by bull. As it turns out, the two incidents are connected. Ditto others that result in the body count rising. After determining the motive, the detectives must find the killer before another member of the extended family gets extinguished. Meanwhile, Jared Morehu (Pana Hema Taylor, Westside) has returned to Brokenwood.
And in “The Dark Angel,” two teens break into Brokenwood Downes, an abandoned asylum, for a bit of fun, only to run away screaming after they find the corpse of an elderly man, strapped to a gurney with electrodes attached to his temples. The victim, the superintendent of the asylum before it closed, was recently released from prison after serving time for torture. Thinking this was a revenge killing, the detectives begin questioning former patients, sometimes with the help of a local psychotherapist who’s taken a shine to Mike.
As with the ones in earlier seasons, these four feature-length episodes are cleverly crafted to leave viewers speculating until the end about who the murderer is. And humor is still a key element in the stories, just as fantastic country music tunes are to the series.
A few things that are different this season: Mike doesn’t speak to any of the dead people; Kristin doesn’t make any of her notoriously bad coffee (although she is spending more time with Kahu, played by Rawiri Jobe of Tatau); and Gina — whose massive crush on Mike becomes public knowledge to various patrons of the Toad & Lion — is antagonistic toward Kristin now. As character development goes, it doesn’t track, it isn’t attractive or funny, and (for me) it leaves a bad taste.
Other than that (and a glaring spelling error in the first episode), Series 5 is great!
The new season features Elizabeth McRae (Shortland Street), Colin Moy (Spartacus), Karl Willetts (Outrageous Fortune), and Jason Hoyte (Nothing Trivial), and guest-stars Rachel Nash (The Almighty Johnsons), Cian Elyse White (800 Words), Will Hall (Nothing Trivial), and Aidee Walker (Step Dave).
The Brokenwood Mysteries: Series 5 premiered yesterday, December 3, exclusively on Acorn TV and the Acorn TV channel on Amazon, with “Scared to Death.” The remaining episodes will debut on successive Mondays, December 10, 17, and 24.
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